Review: Big Sky Country by Linda Lael Miller

Filed in 3 1/2 Stars , featured , Linda Lael Miller , Review , The Needy Lover Posted on June 28, 2012 @ 11:00 am 4 comments

Format Read: ARC paperback provided by publisher
Length: 384 pages
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Parable, Montana #1
Release Date: May 29, 2012
Publisher: HQN Books
Formats Available: Mass Market Paperback, eBook, audio book
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Book DepositoryPublisherAuthor’s Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Book Blurb:

The “First Lady of the West,” #1 New York Times bestselling author Linda Lael Miller is back with a new series about Parable, Montana-where love awaits.

The illegitimate son of a wealthy rancher, Sheriff Slade Barlow grew up in a trailer hitched to the Curly-Burly hair salon his mother runs. He was never acknowledged by his father…until now. Suddenly, Slade has inherited half of Whisper Creek Ranch, one of the most prosperous in Parable, Montana. That doesn’t sit well with his half brother, Hutch, who grew up with all the rights of a Carmody—including the affections of Joslyn Kirk, homecoming queen, rodeo queen, beauty queen, whom Slade has never forgotten.

But Joslyn is barely holding her head up these days as she works to pay back everyone her crooked stepfather cheated. With a town to protect, plus a rebellious teenage stepdaughter, Slade has his hands full. But someone has to convince Joslyn that she’s responsible only for her own actions—such as her effect on this lawman’s guarded heart.


My Thoughts:

Nailing down the core of this book was a bit of a toughie for me. Big Sky Country has much to say about coming to terms with (and ultimately and taking control of) one’s lot in life. Main character Slade Barstow has to deal with both his role as a newly legitimized son and a reintroduction into his former step-daughter’s life. Joslyn “Joss” Kirk is back in her hometown (for reasons even she doesn’t understand), reflecting over her former life of luxury and privilege before her subsequent fall from grace.

Beyond that? I spent much of my time trying to figure out the overall direction of the tale. There was no true driving force going through the story. Things just…were. (Maddening vagueness, right?) I couldn’t quite tell why the heroine was in Parable at all; heck, even *she* didn’t know why she came back to the town. ^_^ I must admit that I read through most of the book as quickly as I did because of an *anticipation* for exciting, gripping twists, rather than because of the actual *occurrence* of intriguing developments.

There is surprisingly little interaction between the two main characters–for a contemporary romance, anyway. Now, I definitely liked the characters on their own. Both Slade and Joss spend most of the story doing a lot of soul searching. But I must be honest and say that they didn’t really do much for me as a potential couple. No cosmic forces really keeping them apart or forcing them together. Sure, each muses internally about a vague attraction to the other, but there is none of the sublime tension that usually makes a romance a page-turner. It wasn’t until well into the book that a cumulative effect started to develop. (There was a scene near the end of the story, at a horse auction, that was really sweet and showcased some of that heartwarming romantic spark that I was hoping for throughout.)

In fact, I found there to have been more dramatic romantic intrigue between two supporting characters, Kendra and Hutch, even though the details of their own shared history was left largely to mystery. *This* dynamic was where some of that compelling magnetism existed. Every scene that featured the two of them left me eagerly awaiting the next encounter, when a stolen glance or an offhand comment would provide a sliver of juicy context with which to frame their fractured relationship.

Big Sky Country does feature a nice, solid narrative voice, though. Characters came off as believable and relatable, for the most part. I enjoyed being in Slade’s and Joslyn’s heads–which is fortunate, because the author put a lot of detail and nuance into fleshing out their individual personalities. The dialogue between the larger cast of characters was comforting as well, authentic-feeling (Jessie, Slade’s step-daughter, and Opal, Joss’s former housekeeper, were true gems–though for opposite reasons). A couple instances of minor exasperation at character behaviors notwithstanding (Joslyn seems to lose her appetite for the most *trivial* reasons! ^_^), this story does bring the cast alive and endears them in the reader’s heart.

Almost a character of its own, the setting of Parable, Montana, was very enjoyable. I could almost feel the hot summer afternoons around town and the cool, relaxed nights. The local general store with its old-timey feel, and the open plains perfect for horseback riding. Big Sky Country did a good job of invoking visuals of its namesake state.

Bottom Line: Overall this was a pleasant, if slow-going, reading experience. For a contemporary romance, there wasn’t a whole lot of gripping romantic intrigue (between the main characters) for much of the book. As such, much of one’s reading satisfaction is derived from the cozy setting and the memorable cast. Heartwarming? For sure…just in an different way. I like to think of this story as a piece of contemporary fiction with category romance elements. ^_^ All told though, it’s certainly worth the read.

I give Big Sky Country 3 1/2 Stars

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

About Alisha

Alisha, the bespectacled and ever nerdy California girl, simply won't leave home without a book in hand. She loves language learnin' and is working toward becoming a bonafide grammar ninja. On any given day you'll find her haunting local libraries or baking scores of cupcakes and sweet treats.

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Join the Discussion
  • aurian June 28, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    This must have been difficult to get into, when nothing really happens. Still, it might be nice to read in between heavier books. Though I have to admit, I am not a fan of soul searching characters.

    • Alisha July 6, 2012 at 10:34 am

      It was kind of nice at first, because it felt relaxed and appropriate to the sleepy-town atmosphere. But then halfway through I found myself wondering what the point was of all that laid back plotting. Being a romance, I knew that the two main characters would get together…. but had no inkling of an overarching plot direction. Kind of weird feeling in a piece of genre fiction, which is all about that.

      That said, it’s still pleasant to read. Just not the book to keep you up late. ^_^

  • Marlene June 28, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    You captured what I was thinking! It was a nice book, but I kept wondering when it was gonna get wherever it was going. It just kept moseying on. Not a bad way to spend a few hours, but not a lot of romantic tension. More women’s fiction than contemp. romance…YMMV, as they say.

    • Alisha July 6, 2012 at 10:45 am

      “More women’s fiction than contemp. romance.”

      EXACTLY. Mentioned as much in an earlier draft of the review…then took it out because the “women’s” part of the moniker didn’t 100% fit with the fact that Slade seemed to carry most of the story. But it’s absolutely true: the book kind of has as much in common with women’s fiction as it does with contemporary romance.

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